Is it possible that the legendary Canadian looniemay soon be on the endangered list? There’s little doubt that we’re moving toward a cashless society. Apple Pay, bitcoin, tap-and-pay, and apps like Venmo are all making credit cards and smartphones the most popular way to pay for goods. Thanks to advancements in the payment and fintech industry, bills and coins may soon be obsolete.

While it can take time to introduce new technology, the banking and financial service industry in Canada is anxious to embrace developments so they can respond to their customers' evolving requirements. “I think Canada has a great opportunity to take centre stage in building new infrastructure to meet the needs of Canadians today,” says Kristy Duncan, Founder and CEO of Women in Payments. “Clearly our requirements for payments have evolved over the years and we're moving away from old payment systems from the last century. It’s an exciting time as the country moves forward with new solutions and technologies to help meet modern market requirements. Canada can certainly play a big part in shaping the payment systems of the future.”

Modernization and security are key

To encourage and support innovation, the organization Payments Canada, which is responsible for overseeing the clearing and settlement infrastructure of payments in Canada, has initiated a payment modernization project. “The program is industry-wide and everyone is working very hard to design and build a new payments infrastructure that will be state-of-the-art for Canadians for many years to come,” explains Duncan. She also points out that banks are likewise intent on constantly enhancing data security. “Banks are obsessed withmaintaining the trust and the security of customers' data. I'm confident that they're very good custodians of our data…After all, if we didn’t trust banks, we’d all start hiding money under the mattress.”

The need for a female perspective

Though the fintech and payment industries are trailblazers in many ways, one area that needs improvement is the inclusion of women. Duncan notes that, "we're all striving towards gender parity at senior levels in the payment industry because ultimately, we want to offer women equal opportunities for these really exiting careers. But I think that's only part of it. I like to look at the customer base we’re servicing with our payment technology, and by and large, women are our base; an astonishing three quarters of consumer payments are made by women.”

Duncan is not exaggerating. A 2015 article in Forbes reported that women are responsible for between 70 to 80 percent of all consumer purchases. Furthermore, a report by the professional services firm EY, entitled Women: The Next Emerging Market, found that women will control almost 75 percent of discretionary spending worldwide by the year 2028.

Despite women’s purchasing power, the majority of professionals working in the fintech and payments field are male. “Women drive consumer spending and we need to reflect that demographic in the teams of people who are designing, servicing, and supporting all of these payment solutions," says Duncan. "This is essential because it's very clear that the customer experience from a woman's perspective will never be the same as the customer experience from the man's perspective.”

Duncan believes that one of the best ways to increase the number of women in the industry is to encourage an interest in science and engineering, and to highlight the advantages of a career in those fields. “The financial services industry has long been a very big employer of technology professionals," she says. "We need more women to help provide a female perspective in developing technology products for use by both men and women. Canada has a great opportunity to show leadership by giving women more opportunities in the payments sector.”